County to take over policing Edinburg

Edinburg will soon say goodbye to its police force.

Town Council has decided to enter into an agreement with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office for the larger agency to take over law enforcement coverage of Edinburg. The deal would take effect July 1. Parties will evaluate the arrangement at the end of the one-year term to decide whether or not to renew the agreement.

Chief Mike Clem retired at the end of April. When he announced his plans months earlier, town leaders re-evaluated the matter of police coverage. Council faced the task of searching for another, part-time chief, keeping the department at the current two officers or arranging for coverage with the county.

Sheriff Timothy C. Carter explained Wednesday that his agency would take on the two officers employed by the town. Edinburg will compensate the county for the expense of just under $91,000, Carter said. The amount would cover salaries and benefits, fuel and equipment. The sheriff compared the arrangement to when his agency receives a grant, with the payment serving as the revenue stream that covers the cost.

Carter has agreed to hire the town’s two police officers, who in fact had once worked for the sheriff’s office. The intent is to add the two positions to his office as deputies, Carter said. The officers would spend about six weeks or so on orientation, he added.

Carter said council and he had a positive discussion Tuesday about the agreement and the town and county’s needs.

Councilman Clyde Beachy said Wednesday that members unanimously agreed to move forward with the deal.

“It basically came down to do we want to look for a new chief or do we want to try another approach, and I believe a majority of council, if not all of the council, felt that this was not a bad thing for Edinburg,” Beachy said. “We believe that the coverage that the sheriff’s department is gonna give us is going to be close to, if not the same, as what we have with our police department right now.”

The Sheriff’s Office has always covered the town during the times that Edinburg officers did not work, Beachy said.

“So we thought it would be a good thing to try,” Beachy said. “It helps our budget. We don’t believe that it will have any impact on our coverage that our citizens have.”

Mayor Daniel Harshman has said that the town struggled for years to provide law enforcement coverage 24-7. The town spends about $138,000 of its $500,000 operating budget on a police department. Edinburg can’t keep up with technology such as providing computers in vehicles. Nor can the town offer competitive salaries that would help retain officers.

The agreement means the town doesn’t need to hire and adequately pay someone who is likely already retired from another law enforcement agency such as the state police, Beachy noted. The town also faced the likelihood it would need to replace at least one of its police vehicles.

The town officers likely would see a pay increase when hired by the sheriff’s office, Beachy said.

“So we’re not putting anybody on the street,” Beachy said. “They have the option to go with the sheriff’s department.

“They’ll be wearing a brown shirt and driving a brown car instead of wearing a blue shirt and [driving] a white car,” Beachy added.

Asked if he felt two officers would suffice to cover Edinburg, Carter said his office looked at data showing the number of calls that take place in town. The sheriff and others in the agency discussed coverage with town officials. Sheriff’s deputies responded to approximately half the number of calls originating in the town limits, Carter said.

The sheriff had proposed a handful of options to the town and council chose the one that ultimately shifts 24-7 coverage to the county, Carter said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com